Monday, January 3, 2011

With great power: Being a review of The Cape

Right. Let's start with the necessary clarification: this is a review of the comic, "The Cape." Published by IDW, written by Jason Ciaramella, based on a short story by Joe Hill. Art by Zach Howard, and colors by Nelson Daniel. It hasn't anything to do with the upcoming tv show. Got it? Good.


The first time I read "The Cape," it was Neil Gaiman's fault.


I wasn't sure, I said during our conference at Clarion, if I could write about the things I wanted to write about in short stories. Well, he said, have you read any Joe Hill? I had, yes, Locke & Key, the most recent issue of which I had brought with me (Welcome to Lovecraft #5) because it was the one with the boat named after Kelly Link in, and she was our week one instructor. (When I showed Kelly, she turned as pink as the filling in the strawberry pies she made for us.) You should read his short stories, Neil said, before you can decide what you can or can't do in the form.


So when I got home, I read Twentieth Century Ghosts, the short story collection that contains "The Cape." It was a story, I thought, that really wanted to be a comic.


It is now, and it's a brilliant one.


Because here's the thing about superpowers. I don't think they always make you a better person. I think we hope they do. We hope the person who winds up with super strength or lightning speed or who discovers he can fly turns out to be a good person. We whisper our comic book mantra of "with great power comes great responsibility" and pray that if we say it enough times it becomes a predictive statement.


Because otherwise, we have to face the uncomfortable truth: that a person who suddenly gains superpowers is going to be the exact same person he was before. Only with cooler toys to play with.


"The Cape" is a story of a boy and a cape and a comic book power. Ciaramella's writing is tight, and smart, and Howard's art is perfectly suited to the story. And the color palette - the red, blue, and yellow, so closely associated another young man is a cape, is washed out, made subtle and melancholy. It's exactly right.


"The Cape" was originally supposed to be a one-shot, but due to circumstances I think are best described as "excessive awesome" - that is what you call it when an issue sells out in under a week, right? - it will be returning as a series. I'm thrilled, and can't wait for Issue #2


Think about the people you know. Think about them carefully. How many of them would put on the cape, and become a hero? And how many would become something else?

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